Today we’re highlighting Pictures of Life & Character (volume one of five), by John Leech (1817-1864). Leech was a prominent caricaturist and illustrator in 19th Century Britain, and was widely regarded for his humorous and political cartoons in the comic magazine Punch.
Pictures of Life & Character is an undated collection of Leech’s cartoons from Punch. Most of them are satirical commentary on social or political events, and quite a few are simply jocular. We’ve focused today on the sporting cartoons in the first volume.
Leech’s subjects often dealt with the sporting culture of his time, and he also illustrated many of the humorous sporting novels of his contemporary, R. S. Surtees (1805-1864). Many of the sporting cartoons in Pictures of Life & Character focus on the misadventures of Mr. Briggs, an enthusiastic (but ultimately incompetent) sportsman.
Thank you for reading along with us this year! Drawing Covert has been a huge success; we’ve received over 11,000 visits since we launched the blog one year ago. We wish all our readers a happy and peaceful holiday season and we’ll be back to look at more books next week.
Today’s highlight from the Library collection is a scrapbook of lithographed plates by sporting illustrator Henry Alken (1785-1851). Alken was a leading illustrator of sporting topics in England during his lifetime, working in engravings as well as oils and watercolors. This Sporting Scrap Book (published in 1824 by Thomas McLean) features fifty plates that include complete scenes and image collages on many different country sports.
If you’d like to learn more about the development of hunting and shooting (and the dogs that made it all possible), don’t miss our ongoing exhibition, “Side-by-Side with Gun & Dog” at the Museum until March 20. Can’t visit us before then? The Side-by-Side catalog is available for purchase now so you can enjoy the artwork from home!
A few months ago, NSLM was approached with an offer we could not refuse: go to Charleston for Garden & Gun‘s Made in the South Jubilee. If you have not yet attended Jubilee, it is an incredible experience to see, hear, taste, and bring home the best of Southern and sporting life. From the Oyster Roast Thursday night to the concert Sunday afternoon, our mission was tell the thousands of visitors about our Museum and Library in Middleburg, Virginia.
We were set up in the library of the historic Legare Waring House, just one part of a whole campus of Jubilee event areas at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site. The event saw close to 3,000 people!
Over the course of the weekend we met hundreds of people, and saw several friends of NSLM all the way down in Charleston. In addition to handing information to attendees, we met the governor of South Carolina, some folks from museums across the South, and several businesses we look forward to seeing again soon.
This opportunity would not have been possible without the help of some key friends. All of our contacts at Garden & Gun were quick to help and very supportive to us newcomers. Our event sponsor, Highcliffe Clothiers, generously lent us some of their pieces to make sure we looked our hunt country best.
Melanie modeling an executive Volvo, and a cape by Highcliffe Clothiers
Anne Marie modeling a horse and Highcliffe jacket
Gorgeous outerwear courtesy of Highcliffe Clothiers
At the end of the weekend, we gave out over a thousand pieces of literature to folks at Jubilee, and inspired many to donate to our organization. We are very fortunate to have been included in an event whose attendees care about our mission to preserve and promote equestrian, angling, and turf and field sports. So long Charleston, we hope to see you next year!
We’re always amazed at the faith that is placed in our staff here at NSLM. Not only have hundreds of supporters trusted us to preserve their historical treasures, but they also come to us with questions and research projects on varying topics. Often, these queries are as educational to the Librarian as the researcher!
Sometimes, the questions go in the other direction. For example, the image below was found in a drawer in the Library’s Lower Level. There was only a name, no other information:
Naturally, that wasn’t enough to satisfy curiosity. Searches of NSLM materials didn’t reveal very much. It was suspected that Johnson was Nancy’s maiden name, and that any other biographical information would likely refer to her by her married name. To get an answer, we turned to the Facebook group, “Equestrians from ‘Back in the Day,'” a collection of thousands of historical equestrian photo enthusiasts.
Our request for help wasn’t in vain. Within a half hour, many members of the group had pooled genealogical resources to find the connection: Nancy Barbara Johnson had married Gerald B. Webb in 1946. Once that had been established, we knew we could finish the story.
Gerald B. Webb, Jr., was a longtime horseman and foxhunter, the son of Dr. Gerald B. Webb, a noted expert on tuberculosis. His mother, Varena Hayes Webb, was a descendant of Jefferson Davis. After graduating from the University of Virginia, Webb took a job as the managing editor of The Fauquier Democrat. He left that position to found The Middleburg Chronicle (today known as The Chronicle of the Horse and located here at NSLM’s campus) with fellow foxhunter Stacy Lloyd. Webb served as managing editor of the new publication. First published on September 17, 1937, the new weekly briefly discussed local politics on the front page before devoting the following seven pages to equestrian news. The publication would eventually focus exclusively on equestrian sports and establish itself as a staple equestrian publication.
Unfortunately, Webb would not enjoy the journal’s success for long. On April 19, 1947, Webb was killed while competing in the Fox Hunters Challenge Cup. His horse crashed while attempting a jump and Webb’s spur caught in his leathers; he was dragged by the horse for half a mile. He never regained consciousness, and died later that evening at the Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. It was just over a year since the announcement of his wedding to Nancy Johnson.
Webb’s collection of photograph albums consist of 16 spiral-bound volumes containing photographs of equestrian events throughout the Middleburg area from 1935 to 1941. A few albums date beyond Webb’s death; we presume that the scrapbooks were continued by staff at The Chronicle of the Horse into the 1950s. Based on the help we received from Facebook, it’s clear the photo of Nancy Johnson belongs with the rest of this collection.
Do you know more about the people or places in some of these photographs? Let us know! You can comment here or contact us if you can fill in any blanks. You just might have the key to making sure the whole story is preserved.
Of the many treasures here in the collections of the NSLM, some objects tell more stories than others. The four-paneled Sporting Screen is a rare and special piece that seems to always be remembered by our visitors. The free-standing screen features the work of many different artists, includes imagery of 18th century horsemanship and racing, and connects directly with books and manuscripts found in the Library’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room. It’s a perfect fit for the NSLM collection, and was generously donated in 2006 through the bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss (1919-2006).
The front of the screen (the “recto” side) features 32 individual, hand-painted prints of 18th-century British race horses and four oil paintings. The prints, which include pedigree, ownership, and the winning records for each horse, were first published in 1741 by the painter and printmaker Thomas Butler (British, active 1750-1759). Portraits of the same horses also appear in the beautifully illustrated book The Sportsman’s Companion: or Portraitures, Pedigrees, and Performances of the Most Eminent Race Horses and Stallions (Published in 1820). A copy is held in the Library collection.
The back of the screen (or the “verso”) features completely different types of scenes showing early 18th century equitation and training.
Painted after original drawings by the artist John Vanderbank (British, 1694-1739), the scenes illustrate a variety of advanced dressage movements. The same Vanderbank illustrations appear in the 1729 horsemanship manual Twenty-five Actions of the Manage Horse. An unbound copy of this book can also be found in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room.
Caring for an object like this presents unique challenges. The screen is made of wood, oil paint on canvas, prints on paper, leather borders, and metal hardware. These materials are all very sensitive to climate conditions (meaning temperature and humidity), as well as light. Those of you who have been to see the screen in person may have noticed the light levels in the gallery are kept rather low, to protect the fragile materials from overexposure and fading. In order to allow the screen some time to rest out of the light, we will soon be moving it into the Museum’s art storage room. We will use that time to have it carefully evaluated – and eventually conserved – by expert art conservators, in order to preserve and protect it.
If you love foxhunting, horses, fly fishing, books, or art, you probably know who we are. If you love living in the South, country sports and speaking with a refined (or sometimes twangy) accent, you know Garden & Gun magazine. Thanks to some mutual friends, we at NSLM have been able to share more about ourselves and our community with the kind folks at G&G.
This past summer we were featured in a weekend getaway article about our hometown, Middleburg, VA. Not only does our little town offer hunting, fine dining, and shopping, you can also see some of the best sporting artwork right here in our Museum (and read about its history in our Library!). Our most recent exhibition, Side-by-Side with Gun & Dogwas also highlighted this fall. Read the Garden & Gun feature below, or read more about the exhibition on our website.
This December, the National Sporting Library & Museum will make its first ever appearance at G&G‘s Made in the South Jubilee in Charleston in just a few weeks! If you are in the area, come see us every day that weekend. We will have giveaways, items from our collection, and information on how you can be part of sporting history. If you can’t make it to Charleston, stop by the Library & Museum and pick up a copy of Side-by-Side with Gun & Dog‘s exhibition catalog. It’s a wishlist must for wing shooters and dog lovers alike!
Gervase Markham (1568-1637) was a prolific writer on a wide variety of topics. NSLM has quite a few editions of his works, including an early edition of Cavalarice; or, The English Horseman. Today we’ll take a brief look at his most famous horse book, Markham’s Masterpiece.
Originally printed in 1610, Markham’s Masterpiece was spectacularly popular and ran through dozens of editions and reprints over the next two centuries. It was reprinted in the American colonies under the title The Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier. The book serves as a veterinary compendium for cures of common (and uncommon) equine ailments, and the book was often printed with other works included. The copy we’re looking at today includes The Countryman’s Care for Curing Diseases in Smaller Cattle.
Markham’s intent in producing the book is clear. He wishes to inform the reader and include all the latest treatments and cures to dispel the use of backwards ones. In his historical context, this was a worthy goal. From our privileged vantage-point, however, the unfortunate fact is that much of the treatments for illness in horses during this time were as helpful as the treatments for humans. For example, Markham treats most illness as imbalance of the bodily humours, and prescribes treatments such as blood-letting and concoctions of various roots to bring the humours back into balance.
Despite the lack of medical accuracy, Markham’s Masterpiece is an invaluable window into the practices of farriery from the 17th to the 19th Centuries. As subsequent editions were produced, revisions, edits, and additions were made. The abiding popularity of the book gives insight into overall horse management from the period.
Our John H. Daniels Fellows have used books like Markham’s Masterpiece to look at historical horse care practices. Kathleen Crandell, a Fellow at NSLM from 2013-2014, will present some of her research on historical equine feeding management at NSLM on November 21. If you would like to attend, or have questions about the event, please contact us.
Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday - CLOSED
Wednesday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
“Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox.
This blog is about the exhibitions, tours, research, programs, and events, at NSLM on its unique collection of books, archives, paintings, sculpture and much more.